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Pride of place: Sanjay Daga

COO Sanjay Daga believes in a highly professional future for Runwal Group, where it leads the way across all sectors of the real estate industry in Western India.

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Like most leaders, Sanjay Daga didn’t enter his career as a senior manager. He worked in numerous industries and learned from his managers and peers to gather the experience that would mould him into the business leader he is today.

"My first eight years, I handled the core accounting, finance, taxation, and import and export businesses," he reflects. "After that experience, I moved into a business head role handling granite quarrying and granite processing for three years. Then I moved into a world-class garment manufacturing unit in Hyderabad. We made shirts for international brands, where we had an Italian technician heading the technical side, and I led the commercial side."

Sanjay first ventured into the real estate industry as business head for retail, commercial spaces and outstation projects at real estate developer Kalpataru.

"In 10 years, I gained experience with my peers and with my seniors, and today, I’m considered a good professional who understands real estate well," he beams.

Before Sanjay joined Runwal Group, it had been a traditionally driven real estate business. Now, there is a delegation of authority and Sanjay makes most of the decisions and, wherever it is required, seeks consultation from the promoters.

"After I came on board, we moved into a new stage of professionalism," Sanjay says. "That is where my contribution started."

Runwal Group’s Founder and Chairman, Subhash Runwal, established the company nearly 40 years ago. Now, the business is divided between his two sons, Sandeep Runwal and Subodh Runwal. "I am part of Sandeep’s Group, and I joined in September 2018," Sanjay explains. "Since then, we have achieved many beneficial transactions and grown professionally."

The Group’s core values are summarised in an acronym: PRIDE. "We stand for pioneering our future, respect for individuals, integrity, delighting the customer and excellence," Sanjay explains. "These values differentiate us from our real estate competitors.

"We stand for pioneering our future, respect for individuals, integrity, delighting the customer and excellence."

"At Runwal, we firmly believe in the power of people and numerous initiatives have been taken by our Human Resources team to foster employee engagement and create a productive and thriving workplace. From staff welfare benefits like a group Mediclaim policy, training programs on topics such as change management, managerial effectiveness and customer centricity to leadership development programs, the company has it all. Each employee at Runwal displays and lives the PRIDE values every single day."

Last year, Runwal announced a joint venture with US-based private equity company Warburg Pincus to create a shopping mall platform that looks to build large destination malls and smaller community malls.

"This project was one of the most exciting opportunities I saw when I came on board because I would be representing the Group in a platform with a billion dollars’ worth of investment," Sanjay recalls.

Runwal and Warburg committed to contributing US$200 million each and raising US$600 million in debt to create a total investment of US$1 billion. "I was instrumental in drawing up the shareholders’ agreement with Warburg Pincus," Sanjay says. "Now the pieces are moving, and we have acquired two assets under the platform – one in Mumbai and one in Pune. We’ve concluded both transactions, and the work has started."

Sanjay has led numerous other projects for Runwal Group, including R City Mall, which is one of the largest shopping centres in Mumbai with nearly 112,000 square metres of leasing space. "All commercial leases and major transactions were routed through me. I gave final approval and financial closure," he says.

The company has approximately 280,000 square metres of real estate development under construction, spread across 12 to 13 projects in Mumbai, but Sanjay has goals to expand further.

"I would like this company to be among the top five real estate developers in Western India, specifically across the state of Maharashtra, because right now our presence is mostly in Mumbai," he explains. "I would like this presence to extend to Pune and other cities of Maharashtra."

The company’s first critical measurement for success is in "absolute value". "How much growth have we achieved in terms of our sales numbers and value? How much growth have we achieved for our customers? We look at developing our customer satisfaction index by giving them services on time, providing them with a high-quality product and addressing their concerns," Sanjay says. "These three things are going to be critical for the real estate business."

"We look at developing our customer satisfaction index by giving them services on time, providing them with a high-quality product and addressing their concerns."

Sanjay also believes a company must have long-term partnerships with its vendors and suppliers to gain success. "We have long-term contracts with most of the vendors and suppliers we partner with," he says.

"We have specific vendors for all the materials required for the construction industry. For example, we must partner with people who provide products like cement, steel, doors, marble flooring, tile flooring, hardware and CP sanitary fittings. All of these items are required for building a house, and we are happy with the long-term partnerships we have with the suppliers."

Sanjay says he still needs to strengthen the team to reach the company’s vision and mission within the next five years. "There are several external challenges we must also navigate, including government policies and the implementation of new laws that govern and monitor real estate development in India," he says.

"We now have The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act in place," he continues, "which protects home buyers and boosts investments in the industry. We also have GST in place, and the market sentiment is not high in today’s market slowdown scenario. We need to work on all these challenges to make this company a successful venture.

"In the next three to five years, I would like this company to be completely transformed into a professionally managed company with a focus on all types of residential development including luxury, premium and value homes."

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